#80: Sparwood Park
“Pleasant arrangement of doggos, puppers and the occasional woofer.”
#3 in Killarney
6998 Arlington Street
Champlain Heights feels a world away from the rest of Vancouver: the winding planned community of cul de sacs and mixed-use housing remind one of a suburban town more than our usual grid and numbered avenue neighbourhoods.
Lodged between three other parks and a school, Sparwood is never going to be a destination unto itself, which means local residents will get to appreciate its charms all to themselves: the excellent little forest that almost feels like a natural campground, the space for dogs to frolic off leash, the way the park snakes around the elementary school, the solid field and adjacent school playground (which has a mini rock climbing apparatus and a long sloping slide).
A number of walking and bike paths intersect the park, allowing folks to travel through on their way somewhere else — though one imagines most people in the neighbourhood are quite happy to stay in the area.
#79: China Creek South Park
“Pretty awesome if you love what’s left of North America’s oldest skatepark!”
#6 in Mount Pleasant
1255 East 10th Avenue
More than anything, China Creek South is known for its skateboard bowls.
Opened in 1979, the pair right in the middle of the park look fairly generic today, but were the first in the city to be installed and the third public ones in all of Canada, the other two built on the North Shore the previous two years.
As such, it became a hub for the culture through thick and thin, being saved several times from proposed removal, including in 2006 when a park board planner said “the residents … are saying the noise is not acceptable anymore.”
Depressing as that sentence may be, the bowls were saved and an additional playground was installed. Today the park is quite lovely for everyone, with a little community garden, lots of gentle slopes and trails, with noise from Clark Drive and the lack of a real sense of purpose to its eastern half the only real drawbacks.
Not a bad legacy, for something that started as a $35,000 investment on an old dump site.
#78: Rupert Park
“Golf ball almost hit my head.”
#6 in Hastings-Sunrise
1600 Rupert Street
How much you enjoy Rupert Park probably depends a decent amount on how much you enjoy pitch and putt golf.
Vancouver has three such courses (the other two are in Queen Elizabeth and Stanley Park), where every hole can be played with three clubs at most, and a round can be enjoyed for less than $20 in around two hours.
And of the three pitch and putt courses in Vancouver parks, Rupert is the best: a nice mix of straight forward shots for beginners, and tricky hits over water and through narrow tree openings to tiny greens, with slopes on the edges of most of them that repel mediocre shots away. Add in the fact that it’s not nearly as crowded as Queen E or Stanley, and it’s an excellent value.
The rest of the park is fine. There’s a baseball diamond, a few tennis courts, a pretty good playground with plenty of slides and ways for kids to scurry up and down depending on their age, and a walking trail.
For a big park designed in the 1970s to give a large green space for the city’s northeast section, it’s fairly pedestrian and somewhat underused outside the golf course — the creepy tunnel connecting the park to the abandoned parking the only real quirk, for better or worse.
Come with a nine-iron and a sense of patience for a good walk spoiled, and Rupert is a solid par, perhaps even a birdie.
#77: Kingcrest Park
“It’s never really full which is perfect.”
#8 in Kensington-Cedar Cottage
4150 Knight Street
There are three distinct elements to Kingcrest Park: a quiet sloping green space and community garden ideal for quiet hangouts, a playground intended for smaller children, and a big old sports area with a basketball court and large field.
All of these elements do the job they need to at an adequate-to-good level: the sloping grassy area is far away from any busy street, the field is in good condition, and the playground has a unique pink/green/yellow colour scheme and just enough variety of play equipment.
(There’s also, right in the middle of it, a very strange springy swing with a “Desert Command” army car theme, for reasons that still confuse me, but let’s move on.)
Even though there’s nothing exciting about Kingcrest — it’s the last park with no grades of B or better — it’s all done well, and with the King Edward/Knight/Kingsway triangle right across the street, it’s a convenient community hub, even if the noise on Knight does grate a bit.
#76: Chaldecott Park
“Very green expanse. Water park. What’s not to like?”
#3 in Dunbar-Southlands
4175 Wallace Street
There’s more to Chaldecott than its origin story, but it is the most unique thing about it, so let’s start there.
According to the city’s first archivist, Major Matthews, there was a prominent early landowner in Vancouver by the name of F.M. Chladecott. He had fallen behind in paying taxes, so in exchange for the city getting off his back, he agreed to give up 12 acres of his holdings, which the municipality then set aside for a park.
From those very Vancouver beginnings, Chaldecott has evolved into a very enjoyable west side green space, with a good baseball field and small wooded area.
Most importantly, it’s a very good space for kids, with a neat old-school playground, and a pretty solid spray park — in general the best spray parks, much like the best playgrounds, are found in the municipalities surrounding Vancouver, but that’s another story — and washrooms as well.
It’s a lot of nice stuff in a mid-sized space, punctuated by a nice view from the high point of the park on the northeast corner, as we inch closer to the truly great parks in the city.
Even if it is named for a real estate holder who failed to pay his taxes on time.
#75: Oak Meadows Park
“Love this park, especially when the grass is long and extra meadowy.”
#2 in South Cambie
899 West 37th Avenue
Completed in just 2009, Oak Meadows is a bit of a secret, owing to the fact that it’s jammed between a secondary school, Oak Street, and a pair of large land holdings under transition.
And part of the reason the park is a bit of a secret is likely due to its half-formed feel: there’s a soccer field in the middle, a jogging trail around it, a tiny playground for younger children hidden among some bushes. And the heart is a large unkempt area that isn’t quite a forest or a meadow, where dogs can run free.
This doesn’t necessarily sound like huge praise, but it is: Oak Meadows is unlike a lot of parks in the city, with a way less formal and designed feel, and is separated out enough that it’s a great place for many groups to hang out.
There’s a number of secondhand chairs placed in a semi-circle among some trees, and last we checked there’s an insect hotel made from an old phone booth, part of a huge pollinator garden within the park.
With a large development coming in at the old transit site to the south and the Heather Lands set to be redeveloped to the east, more people will soon discover the quirky charms of Oak Meadows. We hope they find it as neat as we did.
#74: Kensington Park
“One of the best views of the city imo. ❤️”
#7 in Kensington-Cedar Cottage
5175 Dumfries Street
Ah, that view.
There are few places providing a more panoramic sweep of Vancouver than heading down the hill on Knight Street at 37th Avenue — the full view of the mountains and the port as you enter the core of the city, a reminder of what all the hype is about.
To the east of that stretch of road is Kensington Park. It too is designed to showcase that view, a gentle hill the dominant feature to the park, with some artwork near the top showing silhouettes of the skyline to reinforce the point.
As you head down, there’s a pretty good skateboard bowl, along with a generic 7/10 playground, built by the same manufacturer (Blue Imp) that did a couple dozen 7/10 playgrounds for the city 10-20 years ago.
There’s also another baseball and soccer field, and a community centre, so the park doesn’t lack amenities or views. Still, it doesn’t come together in a particularly integrated way; it’s a little too field heavy, with a lot of underused dead space on the top of the slope.
On a snowy day though, with that view and that hill?
There aren’t many better places to be.
#73: Clinton Park
“just your average Vancouver Park.”
#5 in Hastings-Sunrise
2690 Grant Street
There are 35 parks in the City of Vancouver with a washroom and a big field you can play soccer or baseball on.
If you close your eyes you can probably imagine one of them pretty easily: there’s a small slope from the street down to the park, with a playground that could probably use an upgrade, maybe a community garden or tennis court sprinkled in, and how much you use it depends on how close it is to your house.
Of those 35, Clinton is right around the middle, an archetype for the city’s favourite form of park. The major highlights are new accessible washrooms and a few trees and plants dotted around the playground. The lowlights are yet another underused wading pool and a lack of secondary amenities like a basketball court or modern playground.
It’s still a good park though, with a tremendous amount of space in the middle of the city, one of those things that we take for granted when there’s dozens of other examples to pick from.
#72: Riverview Park
“The kids love snaking in and out of the low hanging branches.”
#3 in Marpole
1751 West 66th Avenue
There’s not too much to Riverview: it’s a big sloping park, about two city blocks large, with a playground in one corner and a bunch of trees dotted around the green space.
What a lovely green space though! It provides excellent views of the sunset, lots of wide open space for frisbee or baseball, and enough trees for exploring, particularly for little ones. A couple of them also offer excellent climbing opportunities, the type that is rare to see in parks these days. And its bordered by three quiet streets and the Arbutus Greenway, giving it a real tranquility.
The older wooden playground could (say it with me) use an upgrade, but otherwise this is an excellent space for kids to play, and roam, and imagine, even without a lot of gimmicks, and yay to those sorts of parks.
#71: Salsbury Park
“Nice little neighborhood park with great mountain view.”
#5 in Grandview-Woodland
1806 Adanac Street
“Small park on a steep hill” is not necessarily a recipe for success, and yet Salsbury delivers.
The park is about the size of one mid-sized apartment complex, and consists of a small playground, a large grassy slope, and some grass and benches in between the two of them.
The playground is quite good for kids 3-6, with a rubber surface, a disc swing and a sandy pit. The benches give a nice view of the mountains, while the slope invites people to lay out on a summer day.
With a number of excellent restaurants a block away at Commercial and Venables, it’s an ideal hangout spot for people living in the neighbourhood, or those just visiting for some spicy chicken or Thai food.
It’s a wonderful (if rare) example of how small parks in Vancouver can be excellent multi-use places — all it takes is a decent playground and a modicum of cleverness with the design.